Mr. Truman or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb

The pilot of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress flying above Hiroshima August 6, 1945 named the bomber he commanded after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets. Just as she delivered him into the world, Colonel Paul Tibbets gave birth to the Atomic Age when he released a nearly five-ton atomic bomb over Hiroshima at 8:15 that morning. Codenamed Little Boy, the bomb exploded above the city with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT, incinerating or injuring more than one-hundred thousand civilians in a city of a quarter million people. The pilot denied the immorality of the atomic bombings until his death in 2007, dismissing criticism as “hogwash.”

Sixteen hours after the atomic bombing, President Harry S. Truman made a public statement to announce the result of having “spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history – and won.”

“What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history. It was done under high pressure and without failure,” Truman said.

He accomplished detonating the first atomic bomb in war, and the second scorched Nagasaki three days later, which is perhaps an even greater atrocity for various reasons. But his deadly enterprise was not without failure, contrary to Truman’s claim.

The proliferation and use of nuclear weapons is one of the greatest failures of the State, but more precisely, in terms of dollars and lives, it is the costliest threat to civilization that the State has ever produced.

The National Priorities Project calculates that in 2016, U.S. taxpayers will pay $2.19 million every hour for nuclear weapons and their maintenance. In July, Robert Scher, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans & Capabilities testified that it will cost taxpayers somewhere between $350 and $450 billion to modernize the Department of Defense’s nuclear triad, and incorporate the $400 billion F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter boondoggle into the mix to replace older F-16s.

The fact that almost everything was true in Stanley Kubrick’s unrivaled 1964 satirical black comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is a reality that should frighten every individual unprepared for and opposed to a worldwide nuclear holocaust.

Governments and their officials across the globe have nearly initiated scenarios not unlike what was captured for entertainment purposes in Dr. Strangelove. Kubrick became interested in the subject once he had reviewed a copious amount of material covering nuclear weapons research, use, and its bureaucratic deficiencies, realizing the folly and unintentional sardonic comedy of governments and complex weapons systems triggering the extinction of humanity.

But the American tradition isn’t endless war and arms proliferation. Perhaps that’s the legacy of the State, but not the individuals surviving under its ever-dwindling authority. That ain’t my America, to borrow from the eloquent front-porch anarchist, Bill Kauffman, author of an extensive account of anti-imperialist inclinations in American history.

Isabel Paterson, one of the most influential women on the foundation of the modern American libertarian movement, authored the profound 1943 individualist book, The God of the Machine. She was no cheerleader for Empire.

Among other distinguished women of the time, like Rose Wilder Lane and Zora Neale Hurston, Paterson opposed Allied “obliteration bombing” as senseless carnage, fought against the bankrupt economic policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and called into question FDR’s cozy relationship with wartime playmate and thug Josef Stalin.

Paterson condemned Truman’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for employing science “to fry Japanese babies in atomic radiation.”

Renowned author Zora Neale Hurston wrote in July 1946 to the founder of the Associated Negro Press, Claude Barnett, unequivocally voicing her opposition to Truman’s actions in Japan.

Hurston (emphasis her own) wrote, “Truman is a monster. I can think of him as nothing else but the BUTCHER OF ASIA. Of his grin of triumph on giving the order to drop the Atom bombs on Japan…Is it that we are so devoted to a “good Massa” that we feel that we ought not to even protest such crimes?”

Historian and Independent Institute fellow Anthony Gregory masterfully lays out the case against Truman in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the US Terror State. His further reading recommendations on this and related subjects, discussed in Libertarians and War: A Bibliographical Essay, include Murray N. Rothbard’s War, Peace and the State, the Future of Freedom Foundation’s The Failure of America’s Foreign Wars, and the incomparable work of Robert Higgs, Depression, War, and Cold War.

Another terrific source is the antiwar chapter of a book by libertarian attorney Jacob Huebert, Libertarianism Today, powerfully emphasizing the deleterious nature of warfare in general, as well as this period of time in particular. Huebert succinctly explains principled opposition to nuclear weapons, condemnation of Truman’s use of them, and why abolition is required. But he also points to the use of conventional weapons with equal or greater destructive results than the atomic bombings, like the firebombing of Tokyo that followed the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Dr. Strangelove, Gen. Buck Turgidson attempts to comfort President Merkin Muffley and allay his fear of nuclear annihilation by informing him that “…an unofficial study which we undertook of this eventuality, indicated that we would destroy ninety percent of their nuclear capabilities. We would therefore prevail, and suffer only modest and acceptable civilian casualties from their remaining force, which would be badly damaged and uncoordinated.”

President Muffley rejects this military response, eventually exclaiming, “You’re talking about mass murder, General! Not war!”

Gen. Turgidson collects his thoughts and responds to his president without any cognizance of his own hubris, “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say…no more than ten to twenty million killed. Tops!”

Truman’s own attitude was not much different, except Truman actually approved the order to mass murder the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Those Japanese civilians were no more responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack than those individuals working in Lower Manhattan in September 2001. They were not their government. Truman apologists should be ashamed.

This horrifying anniversary is a perpetual testament to the worst consequences of governments and war. If it exists, Harry S. Truman is burning in the hottest depths of Hell.

Burn, Harry. Burn.

Jared Labell is executive director of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), a nonpartisan, 501(c)(4) taxpayer advocacy group. Founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1976 by activist and economist Jim Tobin, TUA works on behalf of taxpayers to reduce local, state, and federal taxes. Labell’s work has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox television, WBBM and WBEZ radio, and published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, other various newspapers, and the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Read more by Jared Labell

Author: Jared Labell

Jared Labell is executive director of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), a nonpartisan, 501(c)(4) taxpayer advocacy group. Founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1976 by activist and economist Jim Tobin, TUA works on behalf of taxpayers to reduce local, state, and federal taxes. Labell’s work has appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox television, WBBM and WBEZ radio, and published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, other various newspapers, and the Future of Freedom Foundation.